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J Biol Chem. 1990 Jan 5;265(1):408-13.

Interdomain hydrolysis of a truncated Pseudomonas exotoxin by the human immunodeficiency virus-1 protease.

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  • 1Biopolymer Chemistry Unit, Upjohn Company, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49001.


The specificity of HIV-1 (human immunodeficiency virus-1) protease has been evaluated relative to its ability to cleave the three-domain Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE66) and related proteins in which the first domain has been deleted or replaced by a segment of CD4. Native PE66 is not hydrolyzed by the HIV-1 protease. However, removal of its first domain produces a molecule which is an excellent substrate for the enzyme. The major site of cleavage in this truncated exotoxin, called LysPE40, occurs in a segment that connects its two major domains, the translocation domain (II), and the ADP-ribosyltransferase (III). This interdomain region contains the sequence ...Asn-Tyr-Pro-Thr... which is similar to that surrounding the scissile Tyr-Pro bond in the gag precursor polyprotein, a natural substrate of the HIV-1 protease. Nevertheless, it is not this sequence that is recognized and cleaved by the enzyme, but one 6 residues away, ...Ala-Leu-Leu-Glu... in which the Leu-Leu peptide bond is hydrolyzed. A second, slower cleavage takes place at the Leu-Ala bond 3 residues in from the NH2 terminus of LysPE40. When domain I of PE66 is replaced by a segment comprising the first two domains of CD4, the resulting chimeric protein is hydrolyzed at the same Leu-Leu bond by HIV-1 protease. Enzyme activities toward synthetic peptides modeled after the sequences defined above in LysPE40 are in complete accord, relative to specificity, kinetics, and pH optimum, with results obtained in the hydrolysis of the parent protein. These findings demonstrate that ideas concerning the specificity of the HIV-1 protease that are based solely upon its processing of natural viral polyproteins can be expanded by evaluation of other multidomain proteins as substrates. Moreover, it would appear that it is not a particular conformation, but sequence and accessibility that play the dominant role in defining sites in a protein substrate that are susceptible to hydrolysis by the enzyme.

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